Strategies for Successfully Eating Out

Restaurant dining has changed in so many ways over the years. For me as a child it was a special treat. We would get dressed up and go out to the restaurant to sit down and eat in. We would take our time, talk with each other and savour the flavours and the experience. I remember only getting to order in pizza once a month and we would eat raw veggies as an appetizer while we waited for it to be delivered. 1 large pizza for 5 of us. 

This is nothing like it is today. Eating out, ordering in, taking out or eating at a food truck is very common and typical in many weekly menus. In fact, it is often something that happens a few times a week or in some cases a few times a day. It’s no wonder Canadians spend so much of their income on food. According to stats Canada, Canadian households eat out an average of 520 meals a year. If this is the case for your family, there are a few things to consider when making your meal choice.

First, ask for what you want. Think of the meal out as part of your daily menu and not as a “treat”. 

This means applying the same principles for healthy choices you would at home: 

  • include a source of protein
  • cover ½ your plate with veg
  • choose more whole grains
  • watch your portions
  • be reasonable with fat (nothing deep fried) 

You may have to sub the fries for salad, order extra vegetables, get ½ portions or share with a friend. You could get sauces on the side, sub mashed potato for baked and stop eating when you are satisfied not stuffed (don’t be shy, take a doggy bag).

Second, watch out for the “health halo”. Just because it’s coming from a healthy restaurant or café doesn’t mean that all items are healthy. 

  • If there are labels or ingredient lists, check them out
  • Beware of the gluten-free baking and desserts (often high in sugar, starch, fat and calories)
  • Organic sugar is still sugar. Watch the fancy drinks with added sugar
  • Vegan and vegetarian dishes aren’t calorie free!

Third, learn the lingo.

Breaded and crispy likely means cooked in a vat of oil. Some other high fat items include: Aioli, Alfredo, au gratin, batter fried, battered, buttery, cheese sauce, coconut milk, cream, cream sauce, crème, crusted, deep fried, escalloped, French fried, fried, fritter, ghee, hollandaise, in gravy, mayonnaise, pate, refried, sauté (sautéed), scampi- style, sizzling, stir-fried, tempura.

Fourth, try not to starve yourself or save up in anticipation of the meal out.

  • Eat a breakfast that includes protein (for satiety)
  • Have an apple or some veggies before you go out to lunch
  • Stay well hydrated throughout the day
  • Have a small snack between meals to maintain consistent blood sugars and avoid extreme hunger and cravings

Ideally, try to find ways to eat food from home more often, you have more control over what you make, it will cost you less and is often a better portion size. If you keep restaurant dining to a minimum you can order what you like because it is a treat!

Strategies for Successfully Eating Out Strategies for Successfully Eating Out Strategies for Successfully Eating Out Strategies for Successfully Eating Out